Friday, September 21, 2012

Spelling Issues: Ghoti-ing For Answers

If you're not familiar with the word ghoti you may be surprised to know that it's pronounced exactly the same as fish, or not at all.

We're not clowning around.
If you'd like to pronounce it /ˈfɪʃ/ (fish) then you need only follow these simple rules:

The gh is pronounced the same as in tough, the o is pronounced the same as in women and the ti is pronounced as in station. It's an example of the irregularities we come across daily in English. The e in English is pronounced like i for some reason...

If you'd like the word to be entirely silent, then you can follow these rules for pronunciation:

Consider the gh to be as in through, the o as in people, and the t as in ballet and the i as in business.

Native speakers may think we're being pedantic, but learners of English will be all too familiar with how frustrating and nonsensical spelling in English can be! This is because of the orthography of English. Orthography is the relationship between the English alphabet and the sounds letters are supposed to represent. The reason there are so many exceptions to the rules is due to the complex history of the English language.

Given the number of exceptions in terms of spelling. You could probably spell any word any way you want. Stupid Ongliti! (English). If you're familiar with British place names you may be aware places like Loughborough (/ˈlʌfbərə/ or lʌfbrə/), Edinburgh (/ˈɛdɪnbʌrə/), Alnwick (/ˈænɨk/) or Berwick-Upon-Tweed (/ˈbɛrɨk əpɒn ˈtwd/) and many, many more, are some excellent examples of English orthography, or lack thereof.

Berwick-Upon-Tweed. It's a lot easier to get a train there if you can pronounce it.

Though if you've ever studied French you could probably do the same. That's a challenge for another deigh. OK... we'll stop.